• Tony Fortunato

What Are Application Dependency Tools and Why Do You Need Them? (Gilad David Maayan)



What Is Application Dependency Mapping?

Application Dependency Mapping (ADM) is the process of building a map of application components deployed in a network and their interactions with other components or applications. The goal is to provide complete visibility of application topology, to prevent operational, security, and compliance risks.


Modern dependency mapping tools can identify and map all application instances, communication channels, ports, and services in the IT ecosystem. In a cloud environment, they make it easy to define, visualize, and modify virtual private clouds (VPCs), subnets, and security groups. These tools show an easy-to-read visual map of application dependencies, which can be used in application troubleshooting, migration planning, and incident response.


Why Is It Critical to Manage Dependencies on a Network?

In the past, software dependencies were difficult to manage and required manually downloading and installing or importing required libraries. Package managers, introduced in all popular programming languages, made this process much easier and promoted widespread use of dependencies. Almost every software project imports libraries and utilities that help perform commonplace tasks.

Because software dependencies are so widely used, they also create risks for software projects and the organizations that manage them:

  • When using software dependencies, there is no guarantee the developer of the component has properly written, tested, and maintained it.

  • Dependencies are critical for network security. Software dependencies could contain dangerous security vulnerabilities, and even if they are currently safe, they can become out of date and become exposed to vulnerabilities in the future.

  • Many organizations do not have a dependency management capability and so development teams are blind to the dependency structure of their projects.

  • Transitive dependencies can contain multiple chained dependencies or even circular dependencies, which can be difficult to manage manually.

  • Updating one dependency can break the whole chain, leading to severe maintenance issues in a software project.

  • Most of the dependencies used in modern software projects are open source third-party libraries, which makes dependency management more complex.

All these challenges make it critical to adopt systems that can manage the entire lifecycle of software dependencies.


Application Dependency Use Cases


Business Mapping

Business mapping offers a comprehensive understanding of all servers and applications on the network, including communications and dependencies. It enables organizations to accurately assess their infrastructure, identify all systems, and retire and consolidate assets.


Change Management

Modern business systems are highly complex, including many interconnections. As a result, even a minimal change can cause far-reaching consequences. Changes in technologies and processes can cause a trickle-down effect that impacts application performance, regardless of whether the changes are small or big.

Organizations must monitor and address changes quickly to ensure they do not cause downtime or other issues. Application dependency mapping enables organizations to visualize each change, its potential impact on the infrastructure, and the upstream and downstream application consequences the change might cause.


Root Cause Analysis

Organizations should strive to minimize the time from incident to resolution, as rapid identification enables faster mitigation. System failure and poor performance can quickly lead to increased churn as customers become frustrated from the poor experience. An application dependency map can help quickly detect problems, including bottlenecks, delays, service issues, and failed connections.


Proactive Incident Response

Application dependency mapping can indicate the systems and applications that might be impacted during attacks and system outages. It enables organizations to create effective incident response plans and simulations.

Additionally, it makes it easier to plan ahead, utilize techniques like micro-segmentation and micro-perimeters, or transfer data to secure locations in advance. It enables organizations to identify at-risk areas and improve disaster recovery and backup strategies to limit compliance and governance impacts.


Application Dependency Techniques

Here are three common data dependency mapping techniques:

Manual Mapping

Most data systems are too complicated to track manually, but you can use it as a starting point for small data systems you do not expect to grow. You can use various programming languages with manual mapping, including C++, SQL, Java, and XSLT. However, manual mapping requires lengthy upfront work, which is less effective than schema or automated mapping.


Schema Mapping

Schema mapping tools compare data sources to a target schema and generate connections. After creating a data map, the tool generates code to load this data. However, this is not a purely automated process.

Developers need to manually assess the software to verify the information provided by the tool is correct and then make changes as needed. This technique is usually referred to as a semi-automated strategy because it relies on manual work for double-checking the tool’s work before moving forward.


Automated Mapping

Automated solutions enable you to map dependencies without any coding experience. You can drag and drop lines between various databases to map out relationships, making this a user-friendly and relatively fast task. However, you still need to check the accuracy of the data because there is still a chance of human error.


Conclusion

Application dependency mapping is critical for ensuring the security and compliance of applications deployed across the enterprise. When tackling a new application migration project, look for an ADM solution that can identify issues and potential risks in your network architecture and help you implement reliable migration strategies. With an automated service update, it provides ongoing visibility into the IT environment's health.


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